Crunches – You’re Doing Them Wrong
I Felt Like an Idiot
I felt like an idiot the day I figured it out. I was doing thousands of crunches and my profile view in the mirror, pictures, and videos still looked like "THE BLOB". What was up with that?
The Most Common Mistake In Ab Workouts
That revelation was like - DUH! - simply analyzing the basic anatomy would have shown me that I was performing a repetitive, linear, core stabilized, mid-range isolation move, bulking up the middle fibers of my psoas muscle, the ones right behind my belly, and thus causing my spine to hunch forward and my belly to bulge.
Does This Look Familiar?
Are you making the same mistake? You probably are and it's not your fault. Most gym exercises are repetitive linear muscle-bulking moves that are designed for bodybuilders and most trainers and amateurs at the gym don't know one basic fact about anatomy that makes all the difference in your body shape, especially your side view.
The starting position for the standard crunch is all wrong. Here's Why.
With your feet and tailbone anchored on the ground, there is no twisting-balancing-stabilizing motion of the deep core muscles, especially the psoas. Only the central fibers are stimulated in one plane. With the knees bent, the psoas is shortened, so only the mid-vertical fibers are stimulated. This starting position is all wrong - it sets up the one-dimensional isolation of the middle fibers, giving you a bulge in the center of the muscle, and ignoring the side and vertical end fibers
It's no wonder you're seeing the BLOB in the mirror, since that's exactly what you're sculpting with the crunch. The bulked-up middle fibers of the psoas cause your abdominal organs and fat to bulge below your rib cage. The pull of the muscle on the spine shapes it into a hunched position, magnifying this rounding effect. But you don't want round - what you want is long, lean, and linear.
Every Move You Make
You don't want your side view to look like "THE BLOB" in the mirror. What you want is a long, lean, angular, sexy side view. The only way to get there is to start sculpting that profile view using a basic understanding of the muscular anatomy. Literally every move you make in your workout should be designed for and focused on sculpting a body you'll love to see in the mirror, pictures, and videos. It took me a long time to figure out that basic principle. But the day I figured it out was the day I started seeing actual changes in the shape of my body, and loving what I saw in the mirror.
You've Gotta Start Long and Lean
If you want to look lean and linear, you've gotta start that way. In the correct starting position, only the tailbone is anchored - the heels are off the ground, allowing for side-to-side wobble above and below the hips. This will activate the lateral fibers of the psoas and keep them active through the entire move. With the shoulders fully abducted and extended, the rib cage is lifted and the spine maximally lengthened, eccentrically contracting the end-terminal upper fibers of the psoas. The heels are off the ground, activating the lateral psoas fibers, and the thighs are extended, eccentrically contracting the end-terminal lower psoas fibers.
Sculpting a Longer, Leaner, Sexier Side View
As you crunch up to a "V" shape, preserve as much spinal height and lower body extension as possible. You will be working the psoas fibers end-to-end as well as side-to-side. The dramatically increased volume of muscle fiber activation will make this crunch seem much harder at first, but that's the whole point. With every crunch, as you gain strength throughout the entire length of muscle fibers, your spinal length and lower body extension becomes more solid, and you will start noticing that your side view is longer, leaner, and taller in pictures and videos. It's not magic, it's science - you will be applying your knowledge of muscular anatomy to focus your efforts on sculpting the lean side view you want to see in the mirror.